Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

From Whose Perspective?

After the Department of Justice sided with Amazon against Apple and some of the largest book publishers, the emails and testimonies were made available on the DoJ’s website. Charles Cooper has combed through them for CNet to gather the opinions of physical booksellers:

“Physical bookstores allow consumers to browse for titles–a vital function of the bookselling market that the virtual book vendor cannot provide,” [literary agent Denise Marcil] wrote. “When consumers go into physical bookstores, they can head to a specific section if they know what they are looking for; if they don’t, however, they are also able to browse until they find something that captures their interest. The proposed settlement, by making these brick and mortar bookstores the more expensive, less desirable alternative to virtual booksellers, undermines the variety of purchasing venues and experiences available to consumers.”

It’s interesting to note that they tend to side against Amazon, bolstering the opinion of some that this is a vote in favour of a monopoly, not against one. Charles Schumer, for the Wall Street Journal on July 17:

The e-books marketplace provides a perfect example of the challenges traditional industries face in adapting to the Internet economy. Amazon took an early lead in e-book sales, capturing 90% of the retail market. Because of its large product catalog, Amazon could afford to sell e-books below cost.

This model may have served Amazon well, but it put publishers and authors at a distinct disadvantage as they continued to try to market paper books and pave a way forward for a digital future. Without viable retail competitors, publishers were forced to make a Hobson’s choice. They could allow their books to be sold at the prices Amazon set, thus undercutting their own current hardcopy sales and the future pricing expectations for digital books—or stay out of the e-books market entirely. In an increasingly digital age, the latter was simply not an option.